What does John 6:51 mean?
ESV: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
NIV: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.'
NASB: I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats from this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I will give for the life of the world also is My flesh.'
CSB: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
NLT: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.'
KJV: I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
As the people begin to complain about Jesus' claims to have come from heaven (John 6:38), He gives a deeper explanation of His meaning. In the wilderness, God sent physical bread from heaven to meet a physical need. That manna symbolically represented Jesus. In particular, the manna had to be accepted as a gift or simply walked on. Now, according to Jesus, God has sent the "true bread from heaven" (John 6:32), in the form of a person (John 6:33). This is Christ Himself (John 6:48). Eternal life is only for those who believe in Christ (John 6:40). This explanation came after the people repeatedly misunderstood the symbolic nature of the "Bread of Life" (John 6:26; John 6:34).
This verse contains the statement which truly derails Jesus' worldly popularity. Prior to this conversation, the people were ready to make Jesus king—by force, it necessary (John 6:15). Showing that His ministry is spiritual, not physical, has taken some of that enthusiasm away (John 6:41). Now Jesus refers to the real role of the Messiah: to suffer and die for the people. The offering which will grant eternal life to those who believe is Jesus' body: His flesh.
This comment not only contradicts the prevailing Jewish view of Messiah as a warrior-king, it also suggests cannibalism to those who are still fixated on material things. As the next passage shows, when Jesus makes this claim, it pushes the crowd from complaining to outright fighting.
John 6:41–51 uncovers the true motivation of the crowd following Jesus: selfishness. This passage is part of a long dialogue where Christ clarifies the meaning of His miracles. Jesus has just explained that He, Himself, is the ''Bread of Life'' which people are meant to seek. In response, the people complain amongst themselves. Jesus will give further explanation of what He means by claiming to be the ''Bread of Life.'' This, as is turns out, will make the crowd even more agitated, as the people move from seeking, to complaining, to outright argument.
In chapter 6, Jesus feeds thousands of people who had been following Him. He does this by miraculously dividing the contents of a small lunch, leaving more left over than He had to begin with. At first, the crowd is amazed and they enthusiastically praise Jesus. After sending the disciples across the Sea of Galilee, and rescuing them from a storm by walking on the water, Jesus once again addresses the crowd. This time, He emphasizes the spiritual lesson behind His prior miracle. In response, most of those who had been praising Jesus turn away from Him in disappointment.
John chapter 6 occurs some months after the events of chapter 5, bringing the narrative to about one year prior to Jesus' crucifixion. As with the rest of the Gospel of John, the purpose is not to repeat information from the other three Gospels, but to focus on Jesus' status as God incarnate. This chapter continues to expand the list of Jesus' miraculous signs and the witnesses to His divine nature. Here, Jesus also gives the first of seven ''I AM'' statements found in this Gospel. Chapter 7 will once again skip ahead to a major public step in Jesus' path to the cross.
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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